RePost: Address on Veteran’s Day 2012
Here is another speech-style piece I composed the day after Veterans Day about a year ago, in 2012. The effort I intimated I would spearhead looks, at the moment, as though it may become a reality.“If there ever were a reason for me to be ashamed of the University of Southern California, I found it today- USC and its schools and student organizations did not, to the extent of my knowledge, host a Veterans Day event of any kind; or if they did, they did not announce it to the public or the Student Body.Next year, this must change, and if I have to be the one spearheading the effort, so be it.
Now I grew up believing strongly in God, and I expected that when I delved deeply into science in AP Biology, that that faith would be challenged and fade. But in reality, my belief in God was reaffirmed and strengthened immensely; for I discovered, in the sheer complexity of the biological world, a system of such perfection and continuity- despite its seeming flaws and contradictions- that it seemed to me totally irrational that such a phenomenom could be fashioned wholly by impersonal forces.
The same holds true of America. In the development of my political conscience- As the child of a Naval Officer, as a Boy Scout, as a Boys Stater, as an avid Tom Clancy fan- I was an American patriot, perhaps by some descriptions a Nationalist. I did not delve into the Realist school of political science until much more recently; I did not attempt to actually understand the world and its ways until my ideals were already set. I expected that a more rational understanding of the world would kill the patriot in me. But the reverse occurred. Seeing the course of history, seeing the nature of human societies, I began to appreciate more truly what a miracle America really has been in her past, is in the present, and will be in her future, unless we fail her.
To begin, her position between two oceans, essentially impervious to land invasion, provided her with sufficient natural security to develop a liberal state apparatus.
She was descended from a nation which valued individualistic politics and social decency, trends which she inherited.
Her interior and its vast natural resources were unmolested and nearly unexploited by any foreign sovereign.
Due to the nature of her government, she was only once racked by a serious political division, the lessons of which were learned and provided against.
But perhaps most remarkably, her military establishment never once sought to usurp the sovereignty of the civilian government, a phenomenom nearly unknown in the rest of the world. Perhaps this would not be so remarkable, were it not true that this same military is, at present, the most well-trained and disciplined force extant today, and has been for a large chunk of its history. Not as the Roman Legions, annoyed with political squabbles to the point of marching on the capital; not as the Mercenaries of old, fighting for the highest bidder; not as the mammoth armies across Asia, prodded into battle in line, by whip and spear; but as a blend of Pragmatism and Patriotism unique in this hemisphere- Warriors dedicated to and fighting for the idea that man can govern himself and ought to live freely, yet Warriors keenly trained in the brutal arts of War and ready to bring horror upon those standing in the way of America’s pragmatic national interest.
In history it is a unique position, indeed. No other national force has volunteered so enthusiastically for the dual mission of national defense and protection of ideals. Yet America’s armed forces have stood at the ready throughout their history to do just that.
In the last Century they fought through the horrors of three conventional wars, two undeclared unconventional wars, and dozens of smaller conflicts in between. In this Century they have fought two major unconventional wars and, in twelve years, as many undeclared minor wars as they did in the last hundred.
Unlike most of us, they have seen the ugliest face of human life; and many have told us that the games and movies representing and glorifying it compare in no way at all. They have spent their lives preparing to enter again that face, that hellish state of war, and use its dark power against the enemies of America and the American people. An ugly job, no doubt; yet it must be noted, that oftentimes, these very veterans are some of the most energetic, enthusiastic individuals in our lives, with interests, livelihoods, and passions far removed from the Art of War. They are humans, just like us; but perhaps they understand a little bit more what it means to be human.
One thing, however, cannot be doubted. Our veterans certainly understand more profoundly than we do what it means to be an American. They are the ones who have been putting their lives on the line- not for personal gain, though personal gain they receive; not for philosophical understanding of life, though undoubtedly a philosophical understanding of life they might develop; but in a true sense of duty, for defense of their countrymen, and defense of their country.
Empires throughout history not unlike our own have discovered that war is an unfortunately circular occurrence; but that wars fought away from the homeland preclude wars for the homeland. It is a lie to say that we, as a nation, bear the same load (and virtue) as the warriors who, in effect, set themselves up as shields before the wrath of the world. Their understanding is keener; their deeds more valorous.
This is not to suggest that citizens who are NOT warriors whose talents truly lead them elsewhere are inferior to the members of the Armed Forces, or ought to be in a lower class, or ought to be looked upon with more disrespect; nor that war itself is to be glorified as the maker of men. But those who do make the choice to spend their time in dutiful and dangerous service ought to be afforded a certain degree of honor; for in their sacrifice, they truly are a different breed of men.
As a final note, I here exhort those with the power to shape America and to use means in lieu of war- in particular, those who dedicate their lives to intelligence, diplomacy, finance, and media, and especially our political leaders and aspiring political leaders- to do what they can to strengthen America internally, and preclude wars externally. Though the various means of achieving the latter end are ugly, none are so ugly as the casualty counts and the tears of families. This is an imperfect world, and we must first care for our own.
I am proud of my Dad, the hero who has most shaped me, and of my Uncle and my Grandpa, two other heroes close to me, and of the heroes I have known through Scouting who have mentored me and guided me. I am proud of the heroes of the past, whose deeds have been sung down the ages throughout our countries history; those both living and deceased, but on Veterans Day a particular emphasis is given to those living.
And I look forward to the day when I can be proud of a long list of friends of mine- not for training to serve our country, for I and all who know them are already proud of them for that. No, I look forward to the day when I can be proud of a new generation of veterans, several of whom I have the honor to know personally and call my friend. You guys out there, you know who you are, and you are becoming heroes, and I admire you immensely for it.
Happy Veterans Day to all, God Bless our Vets, and God Bless the USA!”